According to a 2012 Publisher’s Weekly article, 55 percent of published young adult (YA) books are purchased by adults.1 YA librarians everywhere knew that this was nothing new—adults have been clamoring for YA literature since the rise of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games series. Now, of course, this could mean adults are purchasing books for the teens in their lives, but it also shows that adults are not shying away from reading YA titles. I know that holds true in my library, where patrons and staff are eagerly awaiting the next book in a popular YA series as much as the teens. Adults are discovering that some of the best literature being written right now is happening in the YA world; it tends to be faster-paced, shorter (although that’s not always true), and more character-driven than adult literature. There is also a wealth of genres to choose from. As an avid reader, I personally find YA literature to be more engaging, interesting, and just all around fun compared to the “grown up” stuff. I still read adult books now and then, but you can’t tear me away from a good YA novel. Introducing adults to the amazing YA literature available is one of my favorite parts of readers’ advisory and I love that more adults are discovering this exciting area of literature that YA librarians have been raving about for years.
There are so many YA books to choose from that it can be a bit tricky knowing exactly where to get started. So here are some oldies but goodies that work well as YA to adult crossover titles and would be great gateway books.
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (Harper Collins, 2004). Treasure Island meets Around the World in 80 Days. High-stakes adventure and a bit of mystery and romance all come together for an exciting read. The first in a series, pass this novel on to readers who enjoy steampunk or adventure stories and are looking for something engaging and exciting.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Harper Teen, 1999). Three stories unexpectedly come together in this comic book looking at race and culture. This book is perfect for readers who enjoy thoughtful commentaries on life in comic book form.
Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (Harper Collins, 2001). The diary of the hilarious teen Georgia Nicolson as she ventures through school, friendships, and crushes. Give this one to readers who enjoy lighthearted fun and are looking for something that will make them laugh out loud.
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford (Disney Hyperion, 2009). A look into teenage male Will Carter’s mindset that is hilarious and outrageous; be sure to recommend the audiobook to readers for even more laughs.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Disney Hyperion, 2008). Frankie doesn’t take it well when her boyfriend won’t talk about his on-campus secret society, so Frankie decides to infiltrate the society and make their pranks more interesting. Frankie is super smart, incredibly engaging, likable, and overall just pretty awesome. You can’t help but love her and her crazy smart antics.
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2006). Hattie inherits her uncle’s homesteading claim in Montana and works to make it her own to gain the property for herself. Historical fiction at its best, readers can’t help but cheer Hattie through her triumphs and hardships.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Dutton, 2009). Mia is watching her life unfold after a car accident involving her entire family. Should she cling to life and stay on Earth? Heartwrenching and powerfully emotional, readers won’t have a dry eye at the end of this book. Be sure to give readers the sequel, Where She Went, after they finish the first novel.
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2006). After a meteor hits the moon, the world is thrown into chaos. Give this one to readers who are hooked on dystopian fiction. This one is especially scary because of the uncontrollable natural disasters and uncertain future.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2003). Mattie takes a job at a summer inn and discovers shocking secrets about a guest while trying to grow up and make her dreams of college a reality. This is a beautifully written historical
fiction title that grips the reader from the first page and doesn’t let go.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004). Vera Dietz just wants to be ignored. She’s been in love with her best friend, Charlie, but now he’s dead and only Vera knows the truth about the night he died. Through alternating past and present, we get to look at Vera and Charlie’s relationship and watch her story unravel and how their friendship began to fall apart. Add in a talking pagoda and one of the best father/daughter relationships written in YA and you’ve got a novel unlike anything else.
Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott (Simon Pulse, 2009). Hannah is embarrassed by her “celebrity” parents—a famous playboy with a reality TV show and his onetime girlfriend. Hannah just wants a normal life, but everyone expects her to be just like her parents. While the story may be a romance at heart, the plot has so much more and Hannah is such a realistic character that readers will love visiting her world for awhile.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, 2005). In a future world where beauty is everything, Shay decides to rebel and join a community of people who refuse an operation to make them beautiful. Tally is recruited to find out more about this secret group and learns more about her world than she realized. Another dystopian tale that has a great blend of action, adventure, and romance perfect for adult readers.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007). What if teens could be unwound and have their organs harvested? The premise makes the story extra scary and the alternating points of view round out the storytelling to make this perfect for dystopian
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (Clarion Books, 2007). Holling Hoodhood is the only student to stay behind on Wednesdays when everyone else goes to catechism or Hebrew school and his teacher is making him read Shakespeare. Schmidt’s writing is insightful, humorous, and heartwarming and will stick with readers long after they finish. Readers should also check out the companion novel, Okay for Now.
Now that you have adult readers hooked on YA fiction, you can expect them to come back asking for more and gearing up for the next big YA series just as much as the teens.
1. “New Study: 55% of YA Books Bought by Adults”, Publisher’s Weekly, Sept. 13, 2012, accessed June 1, 2013.